December 12th, 2010

Formaldehyde Found in Wrinkle-Free Clothing

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By now you’ve heard about Bisphenol A (BPA), the hormone mimicking chemical linked to cancer.  It has been found on dollar bills, canned foods , and cash register receipts. According to The New York Times , there’s more bad news-another carcinogen, formaldehyde, could be lurking in and on our wrinkle-free products including: clothing, curtains, sheets and pillow cases, crib sheets, and baseball caps.

I can still smell the formaldehyde from my high school biology class-preserving that creepy tarantula in a jar. Formaldehyde is used to make clothing wrinkle-free and stain resistant by either soaking the fabric in formaldehyde or exposing the fabric to formaldehyde gases, and then baking the fabric at 300 degrees Fahrenheit. It prevents the fibers in the fabric from wrinkling after being washed.

Photo used under Creative Commons from Miss Karen

Wrinkle-free clothing is offered by almost every big retailer- a dream come true for the traveler and for those of us with iron phobia. Big names such as Nordstrom and L.L. Bean offer many no-iron options.

A recent study by the Government Accountability Office,  the investigative arm of congress,  investigated the levels of formaldehyde in 180 different types of products.  They found that over 5% of the products tested  were  treated with an unacceptable amount of  resin that releases formaldehyde.  Most of the items in the 5% were wrinkle-free products such as sheets, shirts and pants.

So why the $%^&*@#  is formaldehyde on our clothing and in other household products?

The scary truth is that the United States does not regulate formaldehyde levels in clothing, most of which is now made overseas. The government has no requirement for any sort of disclosure to the consumer when formaldehyde is used.


According to the National Cancer Institute, Formaldehyde has been classified as a human carcinogen (cancer-causing substance) by the International Agency for Research on Cancer and as a probable human carcinogen by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Formaldehyde produces toxic fumes which, even in small amounts, can cause skin, eye,  nose and throat irritations. Long-term exposure and high concentrations of formaldehyde can lead to cancer.


  • Don’t buy wrinkle-free or “ready-to-wear” anything. FYI  Men’s shirts had some of the highest occurrences of formaldehyde.
  • ALWAYS wash clothing, bedding and curtains before using.
  • Avoid buying furniture that has been glued with formaldehyde-based glue and is painted with formaldehyde laden paint.
  • There are companies out there that don’t use formaldehyde-contact manufacturers directly to see if they use it and support those that don’t.
  • There needs to be a requirement for the disclosure of the use of formaldehyde in our clothing and other household products just as much as we have the right to know the ingredients in our food.  Time to put on the ol’ legal hat and start writing to those that can make a difference. Anyone care to join?

For now, I’m thinking about busting out that iron and getting to work. My kids have only seen an iron used with Perler Beads.

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*Top photo used under Creative Commons from Boujiandnouna

4 Responses to “Formaldehyde Found in Wrinkle-Free Clothing”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Groovy Green Livin, Jan Hayes. Jan Hayes said: Formaldehyde Found in Wrinkle-Free Clothing | Groovy Green Livin: By now you've heard about Bisphenol A (BPA), t… […]

  2. You won a Sweet Greens giveaway. Please contact me.

  3. We don’t use our iron much…having perfectly unwrinkled clothes just isn’t a necessity in our lives and thus, we get by with a squirt bottle of water.

    I know this may not work for everyone but if “not wrinkled” instead of “perfectly creased” works for your lifestyle, consider a squirt bottle that has a mist setting (as opposed to the full-on SQUIRT setting!). We just spray everything that is too wrinkly for our liking with filtered water, shake and hand smooth and 99% of the time, we look relatively well put together.

  4. Hi Janet. Not wrinkled definitely works in my life! I don’t think I have ever had perfectly creased. I will have to try your squirt bottle suggestion-anything to avoid ironing. Thanks for your comment-have a great weekend!

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Hi! I’m Lori, a recovering attorney, writer, and mom to three boys. Join me as I uncover and share the latest info on healthy living. Learn more.

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